WALTHAM, Mass. – In their first contests after receiving their first-ever national ranking by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), the Brandeis University softball team split a double-header with Wellesley College. The Judges, who entered the rankings at No. 14 on the strength of a 7-3 trip to Florida, dropped the opener, 9-7, thanks to a big fourth inning by the Blue. They bounced back, however, with a 6-3 win in the nightcap, a game shortened to five innings because of darkness. The Judges are now 8-4 on the season, while Wellesley is 1-1.
Wellesley wasted no time in getting the jump on Brandeis senior Emily Vaillette (Milford, N.H./Milford) as sophomore SS Jessie Haladyna (St. Johns, Fla./Bartram Trail) went deep to center field for her first home run of the season. Brandeis answered in the bottom of the frame, tying the game on a double to right-center field by rookie DP Stacy Berg (Owings Mills, Md./McDonough) and taking the lead on a two-run single up the middle by senior catcher Erin Ross (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan). The Judges tacked on a run in the third without a hit, as sophomores Brittany Grimm (Perkiomenville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley) and Mariann Specker (So. Windsor, Conn./Westminster School) walked to lead off the inning. They reached second on third on a passed ball and two outs later, came home on an illegal pitch by Wellesley senior Megan Wood (Jacksonville, Fla./The Bolles School).
The Blue responded in a big way in the fourth by sending 12 batters to the plate, scoring eight runs on six hits and three Judge errors. They opened the inning with back-to-back doubles by senior 1B Alex Warren (Delta, B.C./South Delta Secondary) and junior CF Brittany Bakacs (Millstone Township, N.J./Allentown) that cut the lead to 4-2. After a bunt single put runners on the corners, Wellesley executed a double steal to move within one.
A hit batter and an error loaded the bases, and junior 2B Alison Davis (Glen Ellyn, Ill/Glenbard South) gave the visitors a 5-4 lead with a single up the middle. They tacked on two more runs on a wild pitch and a two-run home run by Warren to take a 9-4 lead.
The teams had runners in every inning but one after than, but it wasn't until the bottom of the seventh that any further damage was done. With one away and runners on second and third, Specker singled through the right side for her first hit of the game. She stole second to put runners on second and third, and Berg came through again, striking a solid single to left that scored two more runs and trimmed the lead to 9-7. Rookie Sarah Schwartzmeyer (Elba, N.Y./Elba Central School) came in to relieve Wood, but walked both hitters she faced, bringing in classmate Lauren Goldfarb (Albuquerque, N.M./La Cueva) with the bases loaded. Goldfarb induced a grounder to first that produced a force at home and ended the game with a strike out to earn a save.
Wood picked up the win 6.1 innings of 10-hit ball, giving up seven runs (five earned) and walking two and striking out two to move to 1-0 on the campaign. Vaillette suffered the loss in 3.1 innings of work with five runs, all earned, and nine hits with two Ks and no walks. She falls to 4-3.
In the second game, the Judges jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first on just one hit. Grimm walked, as did Berg, with an illegal pitch on ball four. Berg then stole second to put two in scoring position for Ross, who laced her fifth double of the season to right field and give the hosts a 2-0 lead. The Blue answered in the top of the second on a two-run home run by Warren, her second of the day.
Brandeis scored the winning runs in the bottom of the frame, again needing just one hit to get the job done. Junior RF Carly Schmand (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) reached on a one-out error and moved to second on a groundout. Junior 2B Melisa Cagar (Ridgewood, N.J./Ridgewood) walked, and Grimm followed with a single for her first RBI of the afternoon, plating Schmand. Two Goldfarb wild pitches later, Cagar crossed the plate to make the game 4-2.
Goldfarb atoned for her wildness in the top of the fourth with a deep home run to left center. Grimm answered and drove home a run in the bottom of the inning and Schmand did likewise in the fifth, making the final score 6-3, as the game was called on account of darkness.
Brandeis sophomore Caroline Miller (Bala Cynwyd, Pa./Harriton) earned the win with four innings of four-hit ball, giving up three earned runs, three walks and two strikeouts, while senior Allie Mussen (Franklin Square, N.Y./Carey) picked up the save by retiring three of the four hitters she faced in the top of the fifth. Goldfarb suffered the loss, giving up six hits and six runs (three earned) in five innings, fanning four and walking five.
The top Brandeis performer of the day at the plate was Grimm, who went 4-for-5 with four runs scored, two RBI a double and a stolen base. Berg went 3-for-5 with two walks, three RBI, three runs scored, two steals. Warren paced Wellesley at the plate, going 4-for-5 with four RBI, three runs scored, two home runs and a double.
Brandeis is off until next Tuesday when they travel to Suffolk University for a 3 p.m. twinbill. Wellesley heads to Florida for their Spring break trip to the National Training Center in Clermont for eight games starting Sunday.